Sunday, 31 October 2010

Month ends on a quiet note

The last week of the month was pretty uneventful with the only birds of note seen around the patch being a female Mandarin on Felbrigg Lake, the first one I have noted there for a number of months, and the regular adult Med Gull which has returned to West Runton to winter.

Sunday, 24 October 2010

Another rewarding seawatch

With onshore winds another seawatch from the patch was in order today, and whilst it initially appeared that it was going to be fairly poor, my persistence paid off when I picked up a Leach's Petrel heading east. Although it was fairly distant, the advantage of a high viewpoint meant I was able to watch it for a good while before it eventually disappeared into the troughs. Other notable birds included a single Little Auk and a few Pom Skuas making it a very worthwhile mornings seawatching.

Friday, 22 October 2010

Rough-legged Buzzard at Stifffkey

A trip along the coast today produced the long-staying Grey Phalarope at Cley and Yellow-browed Warbler at Holkham, but the undoubted highlight of the day came when calling in at Stiffkey late afternoon to check the saltmarsh for raptors.

On arrival a Peregrine was noted siting out on the beach beyond the saltmarsh, and then whilst scanning the area for harriers, I spotted a pale blob amongst the vegetation not far out off the campsite wood. I nearly didn't give it a second look but was very glad that I did as when I got my scope on it I was delighted to see that the pale blob was actually the head and breast of a juv Rough-legged Buzzard! It was sitting on the ground partially obscured but quickly took flight and headed off inland behind the wood, presumably to roost. This bird is part of a small influx along the east coast of Britain at the moment and hopefully one will go on to winter along the north coast this year.

Thursday, 21 October 2010

First of the influx of Waxwings arrive

With thousands of Waxwings currently arriving in the north of the British Isles, hopes were naturally high that they would start arriving here in the south too, and today indeed saw that arrival in the county.

Fortunately I was to share in this early vanguard as whilst out walking along the golf-course I heard their familiar trilling calls fast approaching and noted a flock of 12 come in-off the sea and head inland over the country club, and then only a few minutes later trilling again filled the air and another flock of 14 whizzed along the cliff-top past the Lighthouse heading south-east. Its always a special encounter when you find some Waxwings, and with the huge numbers entering the country at the moment it promises to be a very good winter for them especially given the large berry crop we have experienced this autumn.

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Wheatear and more Rock Pipits

A visit to West Runton today revealed that there were still a few Rock Pipits passing through, with two or three feeding on the beach and cliffs for a short while before they moved off west. Also a reasonably late Northern Wheatear which was feeding along the base of the cliffs was noteworthy too.

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

More Grey Partridges

Highlight of today was an even larger flock of Grey Partridges that I discovered in the field adjacent to Sidestrand School with 14 present in this covey. Thet were trying their best to evade detection in the recently sown field, before they eventually flew off in the direction of the fields where I had encountered the flock of 9 a week ago.

Monday, 18 October 2010

Purple Sands

A walk aroung Trimingham this afternoon produced my first Snow Bunting of the autumn with one flying along the cliffs.

A text then alerted me to the fact that there were a couple of Purple Sandpipers feeding on the prom at Overstrand over high tide, which were fortunately still present when I arrived, and showed very well feeding unconcerned on the lowest concrete ledge occasionally needing to take quick evasive action as the highest of the waves crashed over them. After a while they then flew up on to one of the groynes where they roosted for a while before returning to the prom to feed.

Sunday, 17 October 2010

Small passage of Rock Pipits

A visit to West Runton today in the hope of finding a Rock Pipit on the beach was rewarded when one of the holiday-makers who were rock-pooling there flushed one off the foreshore and it strongly headed off west calling as it went. Then over the next hour or so it became evident that there was actually a light passage of Rock Pipits taking place with a small stream of birds, both singles and small groups, moving west calling as they went, but as inviting as the beach and cliffs should have appeared none landed, maybe due to the number of people around.

I did however notice that the odd one had appeared to go down on the rocky reefs out from Sheringham prom, and a quick trip along there indeed revealed a couple out on the rock piles but again these quickly flew off west.

Saturday, 16 October 2010

An excellent mornings seawatch

With the overnight northerlies picking up in strength, I was out shortly after dawn today to do a seawatch from the patch, and was rewarded with some really excellent birds.

Main highlights were 4+ Little Auks, all singles which passed by close inshore, and a Grey Phalarope, which was the first one that I've ever recorded on a seawatch so was a very notable record. A couple of Pom Skuas, 2 Velvet Scoter and a Shoveler were all new patch birds for the year too.

Back-up birds were also very good with a Short-eared Owl in off the sea, Great Skua, Goldeneye and Red-breasted Mergansers, plus lots of Auks, Brent Geese and Kittiwakes, along with a Tufted Duck, Wigeon, Teal, Common Scoter, Mallards, Red-throated Divers and Gannets.

The new birds for the year saw me break the 190 barrier, a very good total indeed as my previous highest patch year list was 182 back in 2008. I'm fast running out of possible species so 200 seems an impossible task but with 2 and a half months to go only time will tell.

Friday, 15 October 2010

Yellow-browed Warbler and Barnacle Goose

A phone call today alerted me to the finding of a Yelow-browed Warbler in Trimingham churchyard, and after a small wait it eventually reappeared and gave good views on and off as it fed up in a sycamore tree.

A seawatch this afternoon produced the surprise of a Barnacle Goose flying west past East Runton, a good record to add to the two seen last month. Other birds seen passing by included Red-breasted Merganser, Eider, Common Scoter, Teal, Wigeon, Brent Geese, Red-throated Diver, and a few Gannets and Auks.

Thursday, 14 October 2010

Hooded Crows

What was looking like a fairly quiet day around the patch today was suddenly brightened up when whilst I was at Trimingham I scanned a large recently ploughed field in the distance where I could see a number of corvids and gulls had gathered and quickly noticed that there were two crows which appeared to be showing light grey backs right at the back of the field.
Naturally thoughts quickly turned to the possibility of them being Hooded Crows, but I was slightly unsure as to whether it was simply a trick of the light due to the distance, so I quickly made my way over to the edge of the field where to my delight I could now see that they were indeed Hooded Crows, and a new patch tick for me into the bargain!
I quickly dashed back to grab my scope just to eliminate any possibility of them being hybrids and to get some record shots of them. Fortunately they were still present on my return and they were watched commuting between the clifftop field and the beach below, occasionally being flushed every now and again as the farmer had appeared and was now spraying the field with some strong smelling bright yellow chemical which I tried my best not to inhale too much of as he passed by!
Whereas they were a fairly regular bird in the county back in the 1980's, Hooded Crows have now become very scarce with just the occasional bird passing through, but which up till now have always eluded me so it was very pleasing to finally catch up with one (or even two) on the patch, and even better that they hung around long enough for some of the locals to catch up with them too.

On the way back a couple of Roe Deer were seen feeding in a field at Sidestrand, with one posing nicely for a photo before it noticed my presence and headed off into the bracken covered slope behind.

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Red-flanked Bluetail at Waxham

Having spent the last week or so relentlessly flogging the patch in the hope of finding a Bluetail of my own, today I finally admitted defeat and decided to go and see the one at Waxham (the fourth one in the county in the last few days) as they are such stunning birds.

A Lapland Bunting flew over as I was parking the car, and on the way along the dunes, two Common Cranes were watched feeding in a field just inland.

The clump where the Bluetail was hanging out was finally located, the misleading directions on the pager not helping one bit, and after a short wait it showed very well and over the next couple of hours regularly came down to some mealworms put down for it giving the assembled crowd stunning views. Despite its once mythical status having long been shattered by the numerous recent occurences, it must still rank as one of the best birds on the British list and still very much a dream find, so I'll never give up flogging the patch in the hope of one of these beauties popping up in front of me!

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Grey Partridges

A walk around the patch today revealed that there were still good numbers of common migrants in evidence with Thrushes, Robins, Chiffchaffs, Goldcrests and Bramblings all along the coast.

A Pied Flycatcher and Redstart were an unexpected find in a garden in Overstrand village and then a walk round Sidestrand produced 5 Lapland Buntings over calling, another Redstart, Grey Wagtail and the first Fieldfare of the autumn.

The major highlight however was a flock of 9 Grey Partridges that I flushed from the field edge near the reservoir and then watched in the field adjacent to the turkey sheds at Northrepps. As they are in many parts of the country, Grey Partridges have become extremely scarce around here and these were the first that I had seen on the patch since a pair seen back in 2006, so they were a very welcome sight and hopefully they will hang around the area for a while.

Sunday, 10 October 2010

Short-eared Owl

Highlights from yesterday were a couple of Common Redstarts, and 1+ Ring Ouzels still along the GC and a couple of Whinchats at East Runton.
A check around East Runton today produced good numbers of thrushes moving inland including a Ring Ouzel and a number of flocks of Redwings. The two Whinchats were still present and good numbers of Bramblings, Chiffchaffs and Goldcrests were still evident.
A walk around the lighthouse and golf course area produced a couple of Garden Warblers, Whinchat, Ring Ouzel, Wheatear and yet more Bramblings, Chiffchaffs, Goldcrests and Thrushes, plus a few Siskin and a Redpoll over.
However the undoubted highlight was a Short-eared Owl which came in off the sea, circled the cliffs briefly to pick up a thermal, before heading off high inland.

Friday, 8 October 2010

'White-winged' Crow

A walk along the GC revealed a Whinchat on the cliff-face and a few flocks of Thrushes coming in off the sea.
There are currently a number of Crows in the area which have white flight feathers in varying degrees, with one, which, as it was today, can usually be found hanging around the turf slope area being particularly striking.

As the day progressed more and more Redwings and Song Thrushes were seen coming in off the sea, along with a few Bramblings with more of the latter being encountered in the woods and fields around the patch. Chiffchaffs and Goldcrests were also much in evidence, along with a few Reed Buntings, Blackcaps and a Common Whitethroat.

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Red-backed Shrike continues to perform well

With much better light today I went back down to the pitch & putt field in Cromer to get some better pics of the Red-backed Shrike which once the mornings rain had passed through was peforming excellently along the weedy ditch in the middle of the field. It was seen to catch a number of wasps and even pounced on a Speckled Wood butterfly in the grass which it had managed to spot from about 50 metres away, showing what excellent eyesight they must have.

The Redstart was still in the hedgerow and a Brambling was heard calling from the adjacent sycamore wood.

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Red-backed Shrike

A walk along the GC this afternoon revealed that there were a few Ring Ouzels down on the undercliff although as they were typically mobile and elusive I never saw all of them at once but going on plumage there was probably 4 birds down there. Not surprisingly with the course now full of golfers, yesterdays Shorelark was nowhere to be seen.
News then filtered through of an unconfirmed report of a Red-backed Shrike by the Meadow car park in Cromer so I quickly made my way there to find that a couple of other locals had just arrived too and had quickly located it and indeed confirmed its identification. Apparently whoever had found it had popped into the local tourist information centre to tell them about it and they had put the news out!
Also around the same area was a Redstart and a Wheatear so the area was obviously acting as a migrant trap, a place that I've never even considering looking at up till now, but maybe it'll be worth keeping an eye on it in the future especially at this time of year when the pitch & putt which takes place on the field isn't in operation.

Monday, 4 October 2010

Shorelark on the Golf Course

What was a quiet day was eventually livened up when I received a phone call to say that there was a Shorelark on the golf course. Fearing that it would be quickly pushed off by golfers I quickly made my way there, but I needn't have worried as the course was virtually deserted due to the Ryder Cup taking place and no doubt everyone was watching that, or rather in the midst of celebrating as Europe had just won moments earlier.
It was quickly located feeding on the short turf of the fairway nearest the Overstrand end, and was often loosely associating with a couple of Wheatears. It was a very good record for the patch being only the second one I have recorded locally following one on the carnival field at Cromer a few years back.
As evening approached a few skeins of Pink-footed Geese were passing over hearalding the start of their immigration to the county for the winter.

Sunday, 3 October 2010

A few migrants still lingering

A check around the lighthouse and golf course revealed that there was still at least one Pied Flycatcher in Warren Woods and a Spotted Flycatcher in cliff-face bushes below the GC. A few Song Thrushes and Robins remain but nothing like the numbers of recent days. A 1st-winter Mediterranean Gull which flew along the beach heading towards Overstrand was the other notable record of the day.

Saturday, 2 October 2010

Pied Flys etc continue to linger

A check of the area around the lighthouse today revealed that there was still 2+ Pied Flys and a Redstart in the clifftop woods plus a few Bramblings, Song Thrushes and Robins, with many of the latter feeding high up in the tree canopy and looking rather out of context. A Treecreeper which was also in one of the woods was quite likely a migrant too.

East Runton still held a couple of Whinchats, and a few Butterflies, including Red Admiral, Speckled Wood, Comma and Small Copper, were in evidence around the patch along with a few Migrant Hawker Dragonflies too.

Friday, 1 October 2010

A few more migrants coming in

Having concentrated on the east end of the patch yesterday, I decided to search the western end today although the increasing wind and showers weren't ideal.

A couple of Whinchats were at East Runton with a couple more along the clifftop at West Runton, along with a Wheatear, with a couple more of the latter also noted coming in off the sea and pitching down on the tideline showing that migrants were still arriving.